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Suffolk DA Applauded for Probing Police Stops

PHOTO: The Suffolk County Police Department is being investigated for allegedly targeting Latinos during traffic stops. Credit: Suffolk County PD
PHOTO: The Suffolk County Police Department is being investigated for allegedly targeting Latinos during traffic stops. Credit: Suffolk County PD
February 5, 2014

NEW YORK - The Suffolk County district attorney is getting a big thumbs-up for his decision to probe police traffic stops.

District Attorney Thomas Spota confirmed that his office is investigating allegations that Latino immigrants were targeted for traffic stops and that cash may have been stolen from them.

At her Riverhead office, Sister Margaret Rose Smyth, executive director of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, said these charges ring a bell.

"Yes, I think it is a very good idea to look into these allegations," she said, "because there have been people come in to say that this type of thing has happened to them."

As part of his investigation, the district attorney reportedly caught a Suffolk County police officer on camera taking $100 in cash from a Latino during a traffic stop. That officer has entered a plea of not guilty.

Smyth said the Suffolk Police Department has been mending its ways but it is a big task getting every individual police officer to obey the rules and break old habits, which may include being tougher on immigrants.

"The relationship between the police and the community has definitely improved, but sometimes the outcome is different," she said. "They're coming down harder on one for the same thing than the other."

The probe apparently was triggered by complaints coming from Farmville and Medford.

Smyth received a Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 from the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY